Many of us know that the tussle with mental health can take on an incapacitating role. Whether we experience the ups and downs firsthand or have a close friend who struggles to sustain mental and emotional wellness, what remains is that our varied experiences inevitably reveal universal path markers. Part of being a responsible partner means learning to recognize the symptoms of emotional and mental struggle. Only then are we able to provide the objectivity, compassion, and acceptance that our partners need.
Take the shame out of mental illness
Be a soft place to land for your partner. This means letting your partner know, during times of hardship and happiness, that you don’t see mental illness as a weakness. Shame and embarrassment often serve as barriers to a path that leads to real help.
Make sure your partner knows where you stand on the subject of mental health. Communicate your perspective on the matter organically and not only during times when emotions are heightened. These things will ultimately build a foundation where both of you feel supported in discussing difficult or conflicting emotions.
Be a beacon for self-compassion
The way we live our days injects a certain honesty to our words and actions. This honest undertaking can be the credence that a struggling partner needs during mental trials. Pay close attention to how you speak to yourself. Are you speaking with radical self-compassion or do you allow your words to break your spirit?
Cultivate an awareness of your inner dialogue and reflect on whether or not the majority of the messages carry a positive or negative influence – chances are you are not the only person affected by your thoughts. When you walk your path with authenticity, you become a beacon for others to follow.
Speak in specifics
Mental illness can distort a partner’s vision of themselves, effecting their self esteem. Even the most resilient souls can find themselves experiencing an unexpected loss of confidence. Be a reminder of good times. Reiterate to your partner what it is you love about them through their preferred love language. Be specific and spare no details.
Listen without offering solutions
When someone is struggling with depression, it helps to speak the feelings out loud. Instead of continually ruminating in silence, saying the thoughts out loud can be like letting the steam out when things feel like they’re going to boil over. This simple and often overlooked practice can be surprisingly cathartic.
When your partner is looking for a listening ear, be that. Be a listener–without interjecting, without offering your two cents, without finding a grand solution.
Show up when you say you will
This is really a lesson on setting boundaries. Being an advocate and safe space for your partner means moving with consistency. So when you commit to showing up for a coffee date or accompanying them to an appointment, respect your time as well. This means knowing how much you can commit to. Tend to your time so when you show up, you show up wholeheartedly.